Feature article

More active job hunters in 2023 keen for a better life

Expect fewer passive job hunters this year, as Kiwis seek to keep up with the cost of living

Last updated: 1 May 2023

During 2022, employers and recruiters on a hiring drive were frustrated by large numbers of passive job hunters. These skilled workers were happy to browse job listings but wouldn’t take the next step and make an application for a role.

But more job hunters are actively looking for new opportunities, according to Trade Me’s State of the Nation report for 2023, with over 50% of those we surveyed agreeing it was a good time to change jobs and nearly 30% planning to change roles this year.

Our Trade Me Jobs figures showed that in the final quarter of 2022, applications per listing were up nearly 40% year on year. At the same time, some businesses have rethought their next hire, and there are now more candidates looking at fewer roles.

Christian Brown, General Manager of Madison Recruitment, part of the Accordant Group, supported this. “We’ve seen higher numbers of applications coming through and there’s definitely a shift there,” he says.

But job hunters are still in the driver's seat with sectors offering successful candidates record-high salaries in the hospitality and tourism sector, engineering, transport and logistics and manufacturing and operations.

Christian says he’s still seeing skills shortages in a number of areas, his recruitment firm, for instance looking for short term office-based temp assignments in data entry, admin, contact centre work, work that’s usually filled by overseas workers in New Zealand on their OE.

Businesses employing labourers, licensed forklift drivers, construction and road workers, and mechanics, are still finding it challenging to find people already in New Zealand with a work visa, he explains

According to the State of the Nation report for 2023, all job hunters are looking to earn more money but also expressed a desire for more flexibility, wanting a career change or better career prospects.

How open are employers to candidates wanting a complete career change?

Someone who has transferable skills and is keen to work with a good recruiter to explore other industries where those skills can be transferred and well utilised, will have some options, says Christian.

Those looking for a complete career transformation will benefit from more accessible training and upskilling opportunities. With more of these online, people are able to explore these new paths in their own time before taking ”the big leap,” explains Christian.

“Temping can be a great way to explore a new industry and build up experience, or to earn while learning new skills and qualifications,” he adds.

Employers are, meanwhile, acknowledging the value of great staff and are recognising this with good packages that include more than just competitive salaries.

Christian sees that employers are more willing to have those conversations today around customising what new hires want,

“For some job seekers, it’s more about flexibility around hours or location, or a bonus provision based on performance –or even the opportunity to bring their beloved pet into the office,” he says.

What a hospitality sector employer is seeing

Natalie Menzies is one of those who has made a change in direction, going from branch manager of recruitment firm, Adecco to to GM FOH (Front of House) Operations at Taranaki hospitality group, Macfarlanes, in October last year.

The GM who started her career in hospitality and has now come full circle, understands the desire for a career change. She says she felt she had learnt all she had to learn in her former job.

“Here I’ve got the space to operate at a senior level, to lead teams and there’s more creative freedom. I’m paid to be me,” says Natalie, and she relishes that.

The GM says her company has seen an uplift in applications at the company which also works hard at staff retention.

“We’re recruiting across all platforms and really trying to get a good pool and different skill sets, from duty managers, baristas, back of house and kitchen hands,” she says.

At Macfarlanes, which has a number of restaurant, bar and cafe brands in New Plymouth including Monica’s Eatery, Social Kitchen and Snug Lounge, the GM says she can support staff’s careers by giving them a variety of roles and places to work. She’s worked in every business herself, bar one, since starting.

Her staff can learn mixology (cocktail making) or level 4 cookery, or learn more about craft beer, if they express an interest.

And if it’s a career trajectory that people are interested in at the group, Natalie says she’s always looking at internal promotions. She likes that there’s quite a lot of interaction from other brands and the brand leaders with staff. “For us I think it’s about being visible as good human beings,” she says.

While the company pays competitively, Macfarlanes is not competing against other hospitality players necessarily, but rather “against everybody” from power companies to a retailer, says Natalie

Staff retention is key for employers like Macfarlanes. “People won’t leave if they like where they work,” says the GM. If a staff member asks for their hourly rate to go up because their daycare costs have gone up, she’ll do whatever is commercially viable, to keep good staff.

Growing interest from international applicants

Local job hunters putting in applications are also increasingly competing with international candidates, says OneStaff Tauranga engineering recruiter, Japhia Brooks. She’s had applicants from Sri Lanka, Nigeria, India, South Africa, for some of her roles.

In the current market, Japhia sees more applications from locals for warehousing positions and administration roles and the more skilled jobs attracting international applicants.

International workers are relying on the company to become an accredited employer under the new Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme, explains Japhia. Some clients will say no, it’s not worth the hassle, but others some have had no choice but to look into it.

Employers from the engineering sector have had to go above and beyond the last couple of years when recruiting and it’s the job security that they’re offering which is highly valued, says the recruiter.

“If they’ve got the right person, with the right skills, the right package, then that person is less likely to look around,” says the OneStaff recruitment consultant.

For the two years following Covid, everyone was unsure about where their roles might be so they were constantly looking and clients were losing good candidates.

Lucy Lyttelton, senior recruitment consultant from Grada, is hiring in the consulting and engineering space. She says her roles have had a lot of international applicants but applications do better coming from Kiwis or residents in New Zealand.

Lucy’s tip for employers is to be clear cut about what their benefits are, for example, health insurance, bonuses, pathway to equity even phone, car parking and tools of the trade.

The Auckland-based recruiter notes she’s seeing a lot of candidates looking at getting out of Auckland because of the cost of living. Christchurch is the number one location and they'll also look at Waikato or Tauranga.

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